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Match recap: León 4, Santos Laguna 1

A stellar performance from Víctor Dávila lifts León to a 4-1 win over Santos, who played most of the match down a player.

Víctor Dávila of Leon celebrates after scoring León’s third goal of the evening with his teammates during the 12th round match between Leon and Santos Laguna as part of the Torneo Clausura 2023 Liga MX at Leon Stadium on March 19, 2023 in Leon, Mexico. Photo by Leopoldo Smith/Getty Images

A night to forget for Santos, as Víctor Dávila had two goals and Hugo Rodríguez got sent off in León’s 4-1 victory at the Nou Camp. Santos did end León’s second-longest shutout streak of the season at 246 minutes, but gave up four to a team that had scored more than two goals in just one of their previous ten matches.

Santos almost got on the board first in the third minute when Harold Preciado got a head onto a corner kick, but Rodolfo Cota made a brilliante diving save to deny the opportunity. Three minutes late León created something out of seemingly nothing, when a picked off pass and Santos’ inability to clear the ball lead to Víctor Dávila rifling one through traffic and into the back of the net for his fourth goal of the season.

A minute later Dávila almost doubled the lead, but his shot went just wide of the net. Then in the tenth a great ball from Dória sprung Javier Correa, but Cota read the play well, came off of his line, and made a point-blank save on Correa. In the 13th minute a slip by a León defender allowed Santos to get numbers forward and draw Cota out of position, but Stiven Barreiro got back in time to clear a Juan Brunetta shot that had beaten Cota before it got to the line. Three minutes later Ángel Mena got a shot on goal with time and in space, but Acevedo made a great stop on the shot. Yairo Moreno unleashed a blast from distance in the 18th minute, but it was deflected out for a corner kick. Santos couldn’t clear the resulting corner until Acevedo was forced to punch a shot out,

León applied a great deal of pressure on Santos, keeping possession in dangerous areas drawing Santos out of position and creating mismatches. Santos didn’t help their case in stretches, often taking the bait as well as being poor in possession. A team that thrives on the counterattack, Santos tried to build up play slowly but often sent passes to nowhere. One such mismatch was created in the 26th minute when Yairo Moreno made a run down the left, drawing several Santos defenders all the way to the end line. Moreno deftly threaded a pass across the goalmouth to a wide open Iván Moreno, and he blasted one into the back of the net

Things went from bad to worse in the 28th minute when a poor touch by Hugo Rodríguez saw him get into a foot race with Lucas Romero that he was destined to lose. Rodríguez pulled Romero down, and since he was the final player back he was shown a straight red card. Santos actually had a decent chance in the 36th when León committed a rare defensive error, but Juan Brunetta’s shot went wide of the net. In the 44th minute, Dávila god his brace when another failed clearance allowed Dávila to get a shot off that deflected off of a defender and past Acevedo to make it 3-0 for the home side going into the break.

It didn’t take León long to threaten again when Dávila whistled a shot just wide of the net in the 50th minute. Santos drew one back in the 58th minute when a deft pass sprung Harold Preciado down the left. Preciado made a nice run past the defense and beat Cota to the far post and while it was close on the offside, a VAR review confirmed it was indeed a good goal.

But León put their lead back to three in the 64th minute when a set piece saw Víctor Dávila swing a nice ball into the mixer where Fidel Ambriz went up and headed it past Acevedo.

Santos kept trying to pull another one back though. Juan Brunetta had a nice free kick in the 70th minute that cut through traffic but Cota was in the right place and made the stop. But as time went on it became increasingly evident the game was settled, with León taking the time to pass the ball at midfield for several minutes with the crowd shouting “¡Olé!” at every touch. In the game’s waning moments, a giveaway deep to Lucas Di Yorio saw the forward get one past Acevedo, but luckily for Santos it was ruled offside and the goal was annulled.

León heads to the coast to face Mazatlán on Friday, March 24 in a Week 1 make-up while Santos heads to Aguascalientes after the international break to face Necaxa on Friday, March 31.

León: Rodolfo Cota; Iván Moreno (Héctor Uribe, 76’), Stiven Barreiro, Adonis Frías, Osvaldo Rodríguez; Lucas Romero (Joel Campbell, 79’), Fidel Ambriz, Yairo Moreno (Elías Hernández, 40’) ; Ángel Mena, Víctor Dávila (José Alvarado, 76’), Lucas Di Yorio

Santos Laguna: Carlos Acevedo; Omar Campos, Hugo Rodríguez, Matheus Dória, Raúl López (Oscar Manzanarez, 45’); Aldo López, Alan Cervantes (Lucas González, 45’); Javier Correa (Jair González, 45’), Juan Brunetta (Santiago Muñoz, 74’), Diego Medina (Félix Torres, 32’); Harold Preciado

Scoring: León - Víctor Dávila (6’, 44’), Iván Moreno (26’), Fidel Ambriz (64’); Santos Laguna - Harold Preciado (59’)

Disciplinary: León - Iván Moreno (Yellow - 43’), Osvaldo Rodríguez (Yellow - 45’); Santos Laguna - Hugo Rodríguez (Red - 28), Javier Correa (Yellow - 45’), Lucas González (Yellow - 66’)